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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 10, 201805:20 AM EST

Legislation gives Saft until 2019 to hit jobs target

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Battery maker received millions in incentives.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

When the city agreed to incentives for the Saft America Inc. lithium-ion battery plant in 2009, it did so with the understanding that the company would create 279 full-time employees by year-end 2017.

Saft failed to meet that goal, hiring only 149 employees, and now is working with the city to extend the job creation deadline.

Legislation introduced June 12 gives Saft until December 2019 to hire the employees. It also penalizes the company $25,000.

The 2009 economic development agreement with Saft included $5.3 million in city and $14.9 million in state financial incentives. The city provided a $550,000 Public Service Tax Exemption. Saft also was approved for up to $95.5 million in federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for building its plant. 

Of the city’s investment, $3.3 million is a Recapture Enhanced Value grant and $474,300 is a Qualified Target Industry tax refund grant.

A $300,000 Countywide Economic Development Fund site work grant and a $700,000 CEDF job creation grant completes the package. 

Saft promised to invest more than $122 million in the Cecil Commerce Center facility to build batteries for wind- and solar-based power generation plants and hire the 279 workers at a full-time average salary of $44,807.

The deal was negotiated by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, which OED and the Downtown Investment Authority replaced in 2012. 

Saft received about $2.4 million in city-backed incentives since 2009, including $2 million of the REV grant. 

In February, the Office of Economic Development advised Saft it would need to repay $326,000 to the city for failing to meet the job target. 

Through recent negotiations, the sides agreed to amend the deal, reducing the maximum REV grant from $3.3 million to $3.275 million. 

If Saft fails to meet the job goal by December 2019, it also must repay “a proportional share of the CEDF site work grant.” 

According to the legislative summary of the bill, Saft maintains that hiring was on schedule until 2016. 

The City Council Finance Committee will review the legislation July 17. 

The full council could vote on the bill Aug. 14. 

A subsidiary of Paris-based Saft Groupe S.A., Saft America completed its 235,000-square-foot building on 12 acres at 13575 Waterworks St. in September 2011.

It owns the structure, assessed by the Duval County Property Appraiser at almost $26.2 million for 2018.

In May 2016, Saft Groupe agreed to a $1.1 billion buyout by French energy company Total S.A. The sale was completed in July 2016.

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